21 April 2019
High Times. a marijuana-focused media outlet, has declared that it will accept cryptocurrencies for its IPO. Photo: Reuters
High Times. a marijuana-focused media outlet, has declared that it will accept cryptocurrencies for its IPO. Photo: Reuters

Marijuana gets high on digital

While most Asian government positions on marijuana exists somewhere in the 20th century, the European and American experience shows the ‘Chronic’ can be a thriving economic driver. 

Forbes cited market research that indicated spending on legal cannabis worldwide is expected to reach US$57 billion by 2027, with 67 percent accounted for by recreational use and 33 percent medical. Meanwhile, a June 2018 Deloitte report estimated the Canadian legal recreational cannabis use market will be worth US$4.34 billion in 2019, with the medical cannabis market worth between US$770 million and US$1.79 billion, and the illegal market making for US$7.17 billion in total sales next year.

It’s little wonder cryptocurrency is starting to come into the equation. High Times, the publication which is a marijuana equivalent of Playboy, has announced that it will accept cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and Ethereum, for its upcoming IPO.

“High Times has been at the forefront of popular culture for more than four decades,” CEO Adam Levin said. “Now we’re taking another step into the future, not only as one of the first cannabis-related brands to go public on the Nasdaq but also as the first to allow Bitcoin and Ethereum as part of our public capital raise.”

The magazine has been around since 1974, but since then the industry has gone sky high, particularly surrounding digital initiatives. In the United States, auxiliary products have proliferated, including Uber-style delivery services, e-commerce and sales management for dispensaries, data analysis for growing weed, social networks for marijuana fans, med-tech solutions that pair the right strains of weed for the right person, the list is endless.

That’s why you end up with situations such as former NBA star Dennis Rodman showing up at a historic Singapore summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, declaring high times for world peace, all sponsored by PotCoin, a marijuana focused cryptocurrency designed to “facilitate transactions within the legalized cannabis industry.”

“The world is now one step closer to ‪#worldpeace‬. You’re welcome! ‪@realDonaldTrump‬, ‪@DPRK_News‬ ‪@dennisrodman‬ ‪#singapore‬ ‪#summit‬, #cryptocurrency” a tweet on PotCoin’s official Twitter account read. It does sometimes feel like you are totally high living in 2018, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Stats from the National Health Service in England (ex-Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) showed 337,000-hospital admissions due to alcohol consumption in 2016/17 and 5,507 alcohol-specific deaths in the same year. Meanwhile, alcohol harms were estimated to cost the NHS around 3.5 billion pounds annually in 2016. Weed (although not having the same volume of statistics) has by all accounts nowhere near the kind of damage.

Having said this, Rodman might not want to spark up in Singapore, given that being found guilty of possession or consumption of cannabis is not the smartest move there. The Lion City is known to be a ‘fine’ place, and possession could result in a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a massive fine and caning.

Still, Asian governments might want to consider the economic benefits of a mature marijuana market. As the Deloitte Canada report says: “Legalization is expected to attract more of a conservative experimenter— typically one who is aged 35-54, has a university or graduate school education, and has family or other responsibilities.”

As marijuana goes digital, you can be sure the money will follow.

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